Thoughts on Generation X and Canada Reads 2010

Jian Ghomeshi poses with his Smithsonian Edition laptop and the Canada Reads 2010 Champions & their books.

I like a good party and I like books.  Throw those two things together and break out the mashed potatoes!

Mantan Moreland references aside, December 2009 is an excellent time to be a book lover because there’s some lively conversations about books going on.

I’d like to address just one of those conversations today.

On the Inclusion of Generation X in Canada Reads 2010

It took all of 20 seconds for the outcry to erupt and word to spread.

What's an Accelerated Culture?

Generation X?  Are you f*@&ing kidding me?” was the modest refrain most often repeated in coffee shop conversation this past week.  And last night I heard it again and again, this time of course, amplified by several swagger inducing rounds of local beer.

And ok, I get it.  Doug Coupland’s first book has a powerful hold on the Canadian imagination.  It’s a unique book that landed like a grenade on the literary scene in 1991 and its emanations have riffled past the standard circle of book conversation to permeate the fields of pop culture sound bites, marketing slogans and beyond.

It did things that almost zero per cent of books are capable of doing.

It transgressed boundaries at a strolling pace.  It brought a folding lawn chair to the abandoned parking lot on the outskirts of town and it sat there reading the newspaper. In blinding sunlight, wearing a fedora and smoking an absent-minded pipe.

The book always seemed like a taunt to me.  A kind of glib yodel from a passing car directed at the over-exposed suburban landscape.

And here it is again, taunting us anew, ruffling our hair, changing the channel when we’re watching something on TV, asking us stupid questions while we’re on the phone.

Questions like:

Cadence Weapon aka Roland Pemberton

What’s the problem with Generation X being a part of the Canada Reads 2010 shortlist?

Are Canadians so obsessed with historical fiction that any book that so cavalierly flaunts a contemporary mode – contemporary 20 years ago, of course – is immediately pilloried?

Do we expect less audacity from our literature?  More seriousness?

Does the inclusion of Generation X in the Canada Reads 2010 shortlist make people uncomfortable because it asks us to rethink our notion of what a great Canadian book looks and reads like?

Does it provide us an opportunity to create fresh context?

Is this a tremor in the landscape?

Are we afraid of Generation X?

Can something that has so suffused popular culture be considered literature?  Do we have a choice in the matter?

Does this book have the innate power to evoke a passionate cross-country conversation about what constitutes our literature?

It looks to me like that passionate conversation has already begun.

In the horse race of Canada Reads 2010 Generation X is out of the gate like a shot from a gun and the rest of the field has some catching up to do.

Roland ‘Cadence Weapon’ Pemberton made an audacious choice to champion Generation X in this edition of Canada Reads.  He’ll be hard pressed to make his case week after week against the Champions of the other books in the competition.

I look forward to reading and rereading all of the books in the Canada Reads 2010 competition and following the various arguments until the end.

I’ll be posting my thoughts and opinions here as the conversation develops.

Here’s a look at the Canada Reads 2010 shortlist with publication details:

Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott: September 2008, Freehand Books.

Nikolski by Nicholas Dickner: February 2009, Vintage Canada (French ed. 2007).

Jade Peony by Wayson Choy: October 1995, D&M Publishers.

Generation X by Douglas Coupland: March 1991, St. Martin’s Press.

Fall on Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald: August 1997, Vintage Canada.

Sean Cranbury is the Executive Editor of Books on the Radio. He's also Founder and Creative Director of the Real Vancouver Writers' Series. Sean is General Manager at the legendary Storm Crow Tavern and consults with literary arts organizations on digital communications strategies.


  • Reply December 5, 2009


    A absent-minded pipe?

    • Reply December 5, 2009

      Sean Cranbury

      I was feeling absent minded this morning and it just seemed to flow better within that sentence, though I agree that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense!

  • Reply December 5, 2009

    Twitted by seancranbury

    […] This post was Twitted by seancranbury […]

  • Reply January 30, 2010


    I’m looking for people to comment on my first blog question about The Jade Peony, if you would like to weigh in!

  • Reply May 31, 2010

    Chase Michel

    Very awesome post. Honestly.

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